The Lincolnshire county councillor in charge of the economy says there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for local businesses fighting the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, but that there will be rough times ahead first.
Lincolnshire County Council’s economy portfolio holder Colin Davie said he was “not surprised” by the latest tier announcements which saw the region remain under the roughest restrictions of tier 3.
He pointed to the pressures on the NHS and said: “The government is acting in a precautionary way in terms of managing the health system for our population. But that decision has major impacts on the economy.
“It is quite clear to me that the Christmas period, which is an important period for the hospitality and leisure sector, is going to be even further impacted.
“The challenges I’ve always said from when the COVID-19 emergency began would always revolve around the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, and getting them back to a position where they can see a future that is positive.
“That is going to be critical in the next three months, otherwise the fabric of our towns and our high streets will be forever changed.”
Councillor Davie said it would not be possible to save every business but that both local and national government needed to try and support as many as possible to give them the “best chance to survive”.
“I’m already assuming that January and February are going to be difficult months. I think most businesses, certainly around the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector see that period, from March onwards from Easter onwards as critical to them.
“We need to prepare the ground we need to make sure that we basically get the virus in Lincolnshire under control so that we can reopen everything whilst the vaccination programme is underway to protect the vulnerable on the elderly.
“Then when we get to Easter we can reopen firing on all cylinders.”
Hundreds of millions of pounds have already been paid into business support since March including furlough payments, business grants and leader funding.
“It is really important that businesses see the light at the end of the tunnel that I can see,” said Cllr Davie.
“I can see a massive influx of tourism numbers next year.
“I really believe that once people believe it’s that it’s safe to return to visiting coast and their relatives and visiting our beautiful cities and countryside, that they’re going to turn up in huge numbers, bigger, bigger numbers than I have ever seen before.
“Some of the raw data that I have seen indicates that that is going to happen.”
Councillor Davie acknowledged that high streets were already changing prior to COVID and that the virus had increased the speed of that.
He predicted that chains who had multiple outlets would suffer the most from the impact, with local businesses coming out on top in the end.
Meanwhile, technology would continue to play a huge part going forward.
However, he said the county was resilient and that there were “very creative entrepreneurial people who have not just sat back and taken the hit from COVID.”